HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning, a qualifying certification in technical aspects of appliances and machines dealing with the above. Almost every person in the United States has some or the other appliances that has something to do with heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
HVAC deals with the same in technical support and servicing of such machines. More than 3,76,800 people in the USA are HVAC certified and deal with technical aspects of repairing, maintenance, servicing, etc. of HVAC appliances.
A major career option for many along with a very wide business prospects of being a HVAC certified contractor, HVAC certification has become quite trending and a viable option for many in the USA.
As the title says, this article deals with HVAC certification, HVAC certification courses and how one can become a HVAC certified along with becoming a HVAC certified contractor who can start his own HVAC related business.
The US has 50 states and each state has its own law dealing with HVAC certification. Some have in common criteria while others have a different criterion altogether. Amidst the complexity involved, we will help you in understanding the topic better so that you can pursue what deems fit for you.
Here’s How to get HVAC Certified
HVAC certification allows a person to work as technician in the field of heating, ventilation and air conditioning. You can be a professional in dealing with these technical issues arising out of these appliances.
Though not every state requires the same certification but in general one has to get certified in order to get into this field and do business as such professional. HVAC certification and criterion for the same differs from state to state.
There are certain ways to get yourself qualified for the same. Some of them are:
- Pass certification exams for various types of HVAC programs
- Obtaining certification of HVAC from the respective state you want to practice in
- Earning a high school diploma or GED equivalent depending from state to state
- Getting a certificate from trade school for HVAC which also depends from state to state
Based on your choices and your situation, you can opt any of the following. Getting it from a trade school is an ideal choice which will also grant you a degree. If you are doing an apprenticeship then also it is fine to obtain certification.
For all of the above, one has to sit in an exam and pass it in order to get the certificate. Through different ways mentioned above, you can choose your path. Some focus more on education, some on skill and some only rely on exams which are based on your self study.
A high school diploma will take 4 years while it will take 6 months to two years for an accredited program for HVAC. The apprentice program requires 2000 hours of training and 144 hours technical education which can take 2-4 fours years of time.
Apprentice programs are generally paid ones for which you will be paid for the work you do while getting training. You can also obtain an entry level certification and then work for a couple of years to get the final HVAC certification.
Apart from the state based certification, one can also go for the North American Technical Excellence program or the RETA Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association. They have different criteria and years to qualify.
Different Types of HVAC Certification
There are different types of HVAC certification programs available for you. You can pursue any one which you feel suits your needs and where you qualify the criterion. Here’s a look at the different types of HVAC certifications.
- EPA Type I certification: For serving small appliances
- North American Technicians Associations
- Universal EPA Certificate
- EPA Type II Certification: For serving High Pressure Systems
- EPA Type III Certification: For serving low pressure systems
One can obtain any of the following depending on the state of practice. One will have to look into the rules of states and then determine which certification they want. However, one certification program works across all the states.
Section 608 Technician Certification
The EPA or Environmental Protection Agency requires anyone who is accessing or dealing with refrigerant to obtain a certificate known as EPA HVAC certification. As an HVAC technician you are required to regularly have access to such gasses during repair, gas refilling and servicing. It is therefore mandatory to obtain this certification.
There are four types of certification under this course whose names have been mentioned above. Detailed explanation of the above four is given below.
EPA Type I Certification: For Repairing Small Appliances
Based on your job requires you to deal with small appliances then you can obtain this certification. It is obvious that you have to study the content and then sit for an exam, pass it and then qualify for the certification.
What you will be taught are:
- Definition of small appliances, their know how, appliances like a small window AC that contains less than five kg of refrigerant
- Safety considerations during handling of refrigerants
- How to recover gas from systems that may or may not have compressors
- System evacuation by using the appropriate equipment
North American Technician Excellence
NATE is an organization at national level that grants certification to HVAC technicians. The practical aspects of the training and certification makes it ideal for those who want to validate their knowledge through the certificate.
The NATE exams for HVAC techs are divided into two parts. The one part deals with new technicians while the other one deals with experienced techs. The exam is further expanded for air conditioning, air distribution and has a furnace in order to test the skills of the candidate.
One will have to give and pass exams in order to get the certification. This certification is basically of two types. The first one is entry level and the other one is early career certification.
Read to work certification exam: For those who are new and want to enter the field. You have to answer 50 questions and pass the paper to qualify for the same. You will have to learn about the heat transfer theory, tools and equipment, electrical basis and general safety to pass the paper. People without experience can go for this paper.
HVAC Support Technician Certification Exam: A person with an experience of 6-12 months can for this exam. One will have to sit and study in detail about the HVAC work like design considerations, system components, planned maintenance and installations. There will be 100 questions asked in order to qualify for the same.
Another certification program offered by NATE is the professional certification that gives you a specialization certificate. If you have a year or more of experience then you can boost your credentials by passing this paper. Some of them are:
- Air conditioning
- Air distribution
- Oil heating
- Heat pumps air to air
- Gas heating
- Commercial refrigeration (service only)
- Light commercial refrigeration with service only
- Hydronics oil (service only)
- Hydronics gas (service only)
- HVAC efficiency analyst (senior level)
Universal EPA Certificate
In order to qualify this exam, you will have to study all the other EPA certification courses. It takes a bit long but allows you to practice in all the fields without any restriction. It is the recommended route to take as it opens all other options.
EPA Type II Certification: For Servicing High Pressure Systems
Any work that deals with servicing high pressure systems, you will be required to obtain a type II certificate in order to work for the same. The general course follows by studying the course and then sitting for an exam and passing it. The course for type II certification is:
- Detecting leaks in high pressure system
- Safety and safer use of equipment and machines
- Understanding the working of high pressure systems and gases
- Recovery technique and good practice
- Before system recharging and repairing why you need a leak test
- Recovery requirements for carrying out major repairs, repairs and disposals, etc
- For systems carrying more than 50 pounds of refrigerant, leak repair requirements
You can attend classes or can do self study but one has to definitely clear the paper for certification.
EPA Type III Certification: For Servicing Low Pressure Systems
The course for this type of system remains the same just applicable to low pressure systems. One will have to learn the course, give and pass exams to get the certification for the same.
Other Information on the same
You can choose any mode of learning and certification as it deems fit and is viable based on the criterion you meet. You can also go for distance learning or online courses for the same. Many also choose the trade school option to obtain certification from a reputed institute.
Cost of learning is also a factor as it will have direct implications on you. On an average, it can cost you $1500-$30, 000 depending on the type and mode of certification you aim for.
Lastly, time is also a factor in the same since some courses can stretch up to 4 or more years while some can only stretch up to 6 months to a year. You are free to make the right call for yourself. Different states also have different course materials, fees and time.
HVAC contractor and How to become one?
A HVAC contractor is a person who takes HVAC related works on contract basis as a business not limiting the work to himself. He may or may not be working as a technician but he can have a team of employees that work for him for works related to HVAC.
In some states, the contractor needs to be HVAC certified in order to start his business while in some states one requires to employ a person as qualifier who is certified and can undertake and supervise the work. It is not also necessary for a HVAC certified business to have all its employee HVAC certified. It depends from state to state.
As long as the qualifier is employed and the license is up to date, the business can work in the field. A contractor must definitely have knowledge about the HVAC and should also be good in business laws related to this field.
Releasing payrolls, audits, taxes, business licenses, bookkeeping, etc. requires a knowledge of laws. In order to obtain the license for HVAC business, you may also be required to pass an exam. This obviously depends from state to state.
It is better advised to become a qualified HVAC technician as you start your business. It is practical from the perspective that your business growth will also depend on the knowledge and experience you have of the business. If you have already worked in this field as a technician or some other post, you will have skills, networks and experience to build your business to profit.
Advantages of Obtaining HVAC Certificate
Some of the advantages of obtaining HVAC certificate are:
- You get an edge over other non-certified HVAC technicians
- It builds a strong brand for yourself and your business
- Easy access to various HVAC tech field work that maybe limited for non-certified ones
- Growing prospects in this field can gain you good market access and eventually profit
- HVAC business pay a lot more to certified techs over non-certified techs
- Can give you a quantum jump if you have a certificate. You can start your own business rather than being just an employee
- As a business which has HVAC certified employees, you can easily attract clients since you have a reputation of your business
- You can channelize your knowledge and know how into a tangible form which can be showcased when necessary.
HVAC certification is a promising qualification that opens hosts of opportunities for you in this field. If you are interested in this field then there is no wrong time to go for it. Of course you can choose the way you want to pursue the certification.
It is not that your personal skills won’t work but having a tangible certificate helps you in capitalizing your skills for better use. Just go for it!